Harvard University

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Harvard University
motto Veritas
founding 1636
Sponsorship Private
location Cambridge , Massachusetts , United States
United StatesUnited States 
president United StatesUnited States Lawrence S. Bacow
students 23,731 (April 2021)
Employee about 10,000
Foundation assets 37.6 billion US dollars (2015)
University sports Crimson ( Ivy League )
Networks Association of American Universities
Website www.harvard.edu

The Harvard University [hɑ (r) və (r) d juːnivɜː (r) sɪtɪ] (short Harvard ) is a private university in Cambridge ( Massachusetts ) in the Greater Boston on the East Coast of the United States . It was named after the clergyman John Harvard . The foundation goes back to the year 1636, when pious English colonists in what was then Newetowne made the decision to establish a training center for clergy. Harvard University emerged from this school, making it the oldest university in the United States.

Although the university interdenominational aligned, especially at the beginning passed close relations with the Congregationalists and Unitarians . Harvard always ranks high among the top universities in international comparisons and is a founding member of the Association of American Universities . For several years now, the university has been setting up a global network for alumni , guests and friends.


The 1884 John Harvard statue on campus
Harvard Square with newspaper kiosk
Campus view: Massachusetts Hall, seat of the university president
Annenberg Hall
Science center

The first hundred Puritan refugees from England, the so-called Pilgrim Fathers , who landed with the Mayflower on the east coast of North America in 1620 and established the colony of Plymouth there, were followed by thousands of other emigrants in the next few years. A larger group of emigrants under the leadership of John Winthrop , who reached New England with eleven ships in 1630 , founded the Massachusetts Bay colony with the city of Boston. Newtown emerged as a neighboring town in 1631 and was named Cambridge a few years later.

The highest legislature of the colony, the Massachusetts General Court , decided on October 28, 1636, despite tight budgets, to build a college to meet the needs of clergy throughout the populated area. The men around John Winthrop granted £ 400 in two installments. The project received generous sponsorship from the Puritan clergyman John Harvard , who died in 1638, leaving the college his library and half of his fortune. The college was named in honor of John Harvard. A second legacy fell to Harvard College in 1661 with the death of Lady Mowlson Radcliffe (will of 1643). The scholarship fund it established for students in need is the oldest of its kind in America. The later founded Radcliffe College for Women keeps her honorable memory.

It took more than a hundred years for the strictly religious Harvard College to develop into a college with a broader range of courses. In 1811, the Massachusetts General Hospital, the teaching hospital that still exists today, was founded. In the following years, especially during the tenure of Charles William Eliot from 1869 to 1909, Harvard developed into a modern university. During this time, the number of enrollments rose from 1,000 to 3,000 per year, the schools for medicine and law were renewed and more were created. The latter included the schools of economics, dentistry and art. In addition, Radcliffe College was founded under Eliot in 1879.

During Abbott Lawrence Lowell's tenure as president of the university from 1909 to 1933, Harvard University's college education in particular was redesigned. This was particularly characterized by the concentration of the curriculum on a few core areas of study for each course. This was supplemented by innovations in the accommodation of the so-called " undergraduates ". This stipulated that the first-year students were housed in the buildings on or near Harvard Yard for a year and then distributed to twelve other buildings. This should serve the purpose of offering the so-called “freshmen” in the first year of study the atmosphere of a small college within the large university. This system has been tried and tested to this day.

The presidents of the following 70 years carried out numerous renovations, which were mainly aimed at improving the quality of education and consolidating research activities. Notable are the General Education Program of President James Bryant Conant in the 1930s, innovations in the acquisition of external research funds during the tenure of University President Pusey and the integration of Radcliffe College into Harvard University.

University building

Harvard University is administratively and politically run by two institutions.

Harvard Corporation is the university's executive branch and is responsible for managing university finances and making decisions about the political and administrative direction of the university. It consists of seven people, including the university president. The supervisory body is the "Board of Overseers", which consists of 30 members, most of whom are elected by the university's graduate degrees . The Board of Overseers is well informed about the business and political affairs of the university through regular meetings. In addition to monitoring, the board is also responsible for advising the corporation, primarily on economic matters.

As usual in the American university system, Harvard University is the roof for several economically independent institutions. Nine faculties are responsible for the administration of the twelve schools and colleges. There is also an administrative faculty for the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Each unit is headed by a dean appointed by the university president.

Harvard Medical School administration building in the Longwood Medical Area in Boston

The academic units ("Schools") of Harvard University are:

  • Harvard Business School (HBS)
  • Harvard College (College)
  • Harvard University Division of Continuing Education (DCE) / Harvard Extension School (HES)
  • Harvard School of Dental Medicine (SDM)
  • Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD)
  • Harvard Divinity School (HDS)
  • Harvard Graduate School of Education (GSE)
  • Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS)
  • John F. Kennedy School of Government (HKS)
  • Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS)
  • Harvard Law School (HLS)
  • Harvard Medical School (HMS)
  • Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health (HSPH)
  • Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study - Harvard University (Radcliffe)

Other facilities

Harvard's library system, the Harvard University Library , is the oldest in the United States. In addition to a center for the preservation of holdings , the Weissman Preservation Center, for the large number of particularly valuable collections, around 80 individual libraries, some of which enjoy international renown themselves, and which form the largest university library complex in the world. Currently (as of 2013) the university libraries of Harvard University contain more than 16.8 million volumes, manuscripts and microfilms, which are indexed via the OPACs HOLLIS and HOLLIS Classic . The main building is the Widener Library , which opened in 1915 .

Harvard University has its own student dormitories and an electoral system that allows students to choose some of their courses themselves. There is also a compulsory program for gifted students.

At Harvard College, the oldest “department” of the university, one can obtain a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. Traditionally, the Latin names are still used at Harvard for the qualifications, i.e. A. B. (Artium Baccalaureus) and S. B. (Scientiae Baccalaureus). Although Harvard's student body is now made up of students of both sexes, there was originally a women's-only college, Radcliffe College. It wasn't until 1975 that Harvard removed the admission restriction for female students. The admission criteria are among the toughest in the USA: 5.8% of applicants were accepted for the 2017 final year, the lowest rate of all Ivy League universities.

Harvard's foreign institutions include the former residence of the art critic Bernard Berenson , Villa I Tatti in Settignano ( Italy ), now a university center for Renaissance studies. The international Salzburg Seminar , based in Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg, was also launched in 1947 by Harvard students. The Arnold Arboretum is an arboretum belonging to the university, i.e. a botanical garden with an emphasis on woody trees and shrubs . The Harvard College Observatory is now part of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics . Other facilities at the university include the Harvard Radcliffe Institute, which is a continuation of Radcliffe College.

Financing, asset management

As a typical private endowed university, Harvard University has always had the need to raise the steadily increasing demand for funds itself. The standard tuition fees of around US $ 52,000 per year per study place only cover a smaller part of the costs, as around 70% of all students receive scholarships and / or significant parts of the tuition fees are waived. If the family income is low, no tuition fees have to be paid. Tuition fees, minus all scholarships, represented only 19 percent of total income in 2010. A larger part of the income comes from the numerous sponsorships and collaborations with companies, social groups, from the legacies of rich friends, often former students, and above all from income from Foundation assets . Total revenues at the end of fiscal 2010 were approximately $ 3.7 billion. They are made up as follows:

Sources of income
as of June 30, 2010 (end of fiscal year) 
Percentage ownership %)
Profits from the foundation's assets
Tuition fees minus scholarships
other income
government grants
private donations

The university management started early on to avoid the fluctuations in these sources of income as much as possible by creating a financial cushion. Over the past few decades, Harvard has built up a wealth of assets that, as of June 30, 2008, had accumulated to around 37 billion US dollars. From the beginning of five banking experts, the financial administration had grown to 200 experts who operated a lively exchange of personnel with the investment specialists of the banks. For a long time, scoffers had to note that Harvard had developed into a bank with an affiliated university .

The Harvards asset fund was hit hard by the financial crisis: the fund's total value plummeted by more than a quarter in 2009. Many faculties had to cope with significant budget cuts this year. Despite the losses at the time, Harvard remained the wealthiest university in the world with assets of around US $ 26 billion (as of June 2009). By 2011, the asset had risen sharply again and was $ 32 billion.


Students are admitted according to the criteria of “academic prowess”, “extracurricular activities” and “personal rating”. In contrast to the other two criteria, according to some authors, the personal assessment is purely subjective and is decided by officials who would not have even met the students.

Up to a family income of $ 65,000 per year (January 2012), there is no tuition fee. Harvard does not give scholarships to exchange students.


Of the 20,042 students in the 2005/2006 academic year, around 52% were men and 48% women. 44.6% of the students are Americans of European descent, 13.1% Americans of Asian or Pacific descent, 6.5% are African American, 5.3% are Americans of Latin American descent, 0.6% are Native Americans, 18.9% are international students and 10.9% are not stated. Of the 3,669 international students in the 2005/2006 academic year, 1,357 (37%) came from Asia, 378 of them from the People's Republic of China, 244 from South Korea, 189 from India, 135 from Japan, 113 from Taiwan, 73 from Turkey and 298 from other Asian countries.

1022 (28%) come from Europe, 177 of them from Great Britain, 173 from Germany, 76 from France, 53 Italy, 51 each from Bulgaria and Russia, 18 from Cyprus and 455 other European countries. 559 (15%) come from North America, 481 of them from Canada and 78 from Mexico. 64 students come from Brazil, 40 from Colombia, 35 from Argentina, 32 from Chile, 20 from Peru and from other Central and South American countries, making Central and South America a total of 249 students (6.8%).

A total of 215 (5.9%) come from the Near and Middle East; Broken down by country, that makes: 71 from Israel, 13 from Lebanon, 10 from Saudi Arabia and 32 from other countries in the Near and Middle East. 162 students (4.4%) come from Africa, 25 of them from Nigeria, 22 from South Africa, 18 from Kenya, 17 from Ghana, 16 Zimbabwe and 64 others from other African countries. 103 (2.8%) students are from Oceania, 82 of them from Australia, 20 from New Zealand and one student from Fiji. Two students are stateless.

Criticism of the admission process

It is criticized that subjective criteria serve to disadvantage individual groups of applicants (especially Americans with Asian ancestors) in favor of other applicants (especially African-Americans ). An internal study by the university itself from 2013 also confirmed that there is a systemic disadvantage for Asian-American applicants in the application process. An analysis by Professor Peter Arcidiacono of Duke University found that an American with Asian roots, who has a 25% chance of admission based on their skills, has a 77% chance of being Hispanic and a 77% chance of being an African American 95% would be absorbed. The Economist compares this type of disadvantage to the policies of former President Harvard Abbott Lawrence Lowell , who sought (and succeeded) in reducing the proportion of Jewish students by assessing the character of applicants .

Since 2014 there has been a lawsuit against Harvard in this matter, which was brought in by Students for Fair Admissions.


The university's sports teams are called the Harvard Crimson . The university is a member of the Ivy League . In Harvard Stadium with 30,898 spectator seats games found in American football instead. Harvard is one of the top performing universities in competitive sports. With 43 teams, it has more college teams than any other NCAA Division I university . Since the other major universities award competitive sports scholarships, but Harvard does not, the university is able to provide more teams with coaches, travel expenses, materials, physiotherapists, etc.

Sights close to the campus

The Harvard site is home to a variety of museums and collections, including the Fogg Art Museum , which contains European and American paintings, sculptures, and prints from the 18th and 19th centuries. There is also the Busch-Reisinger Museum , which is home to works by German and Northern European masters, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, primarily with art from Asia and the Islamic world.

Other sights include the Memorial Church in honor of the Harvard graduates who have fallen since World War I, the Widener Library and the monumental church-like building of the Sanders Theater Memorial Hall . The complex of Radcliffe College in the Carré between Appian Way, Brattle, Mason and Garden Street is also architecturally interesting.

Well-known students / graduates


Professors who teach at Harvard include the biologist Edward O. Wilson , the cognitive scientist Steven Pinker , the physicist Lisa Randall , the physicist Markus Greiner , the chemists Elias James Corey , Dudley R. Herschbach and George M. Whitesides of Shakespeare - Expert Stephen Greenblatt , author Louis Menand , critic Helen Vendler , historians Henry Louis Gates and Niall Ferguson , economists Amartya Sen , N. Gregory Mankiw , Robert Barro , Stephen A. Marglin and Martin Feldstein , political philosophers Harvey Mansfield , Shirley Williams and Michael Sandel , the political scientists Guido Goldman , Robert Putnam , Joseph Nye , Stanley Hoffmann and Adam Bruno Ulam , the art historian Jeffrey F. Hamburger , the musicologists Robert D. Levin and Bernard Rands , and the legal scholars Lawrence Lessig and Alan Dershowitz .

German professors such as Klaus M. Schmidt , Josef Sudbrack and Henrik Enderlein also taught as visiting professors at the university. Former university members include: Robert Nozick , Joseph Schumpeter , Stephen Thernstrom , Roy Glauber and Michael Walzer .

Exchange program

Harvard University has been running an exchange program at the University of Havana since 2006 . This gives dozens of Harvard students and Cuban lecturers the opportunity to study abroad every year. In 2017, a new contract was signed that aims to further expand scientific cooperation and educational exchange between Cuba and the United States.


  • John T. Bethell: Harvard Observed. An Illustrated History of the University in the Twentieth Century . Harvard University Press , Cambridge, MA 1998, ISBN 0-674-37733-8 .
  • Arthur Stanwood Pier: The story of Harvard . Litte, Brown & Co., Boston 1913 (digitized version)
  • Andrew Schlesinger: Veritas. Harvard College and the American experience . Dee, Chicago 2005, ISBN 1-56663-636-1 .
  • John Trumpbour (Ed.): How Harvard Rules. Reason in the service of empire. South End Press, Boston 1989, ISBN 0-89608-284-9 .

Web links

Commons : Harvard University  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Office of the President. Biography. 2020, accessed on March 27, 2020 : "Lawrence S. Bacow is the 29th President of Harvard University."
  2. harvard.edu
  3. Harvard at a Glance .
  4. ^ Mark W. Harris: The A to Z of Unitarian Universalism . The Scarecrow Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0-8108-6817-5 , pp. 237 .
  5. Global Networking Night. Archived from the original on September 19, 2016 ; Retrieved September 19, 2016 .
  6. Brockhaus Encyclopedia. Mannheim 1987, Volume 3, p. 567.
  7. ^ Joshua Quincy: The History of Harvard University . Volume I, Crosby, Boston 1860, pp. 8 ff.
  8. FAQ on the university website
  9. The Crimson Article
  10. ^ Villa I Tatti
  11. ^ The Harvard Radcliffe Institute. Retrieved October 17, 2016 .
  12. ^ Harvard in numbers
  13. Harvard University Scholarships
  14. Harvard University Tuition Fees
  15. Income and expenses of Harvard University ( Memento of March 10, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 68 kB)
  16. The Crimson
  17. The Crimson
  18. Der Spiegel: Harvard Loses Gigantic Assets , December 16, 2008
  19. The Crimson
  20. Affirmative Dissatisfaction . The Economist, June 23, 2018, pp. 38 .
  21. Harvard University Tuition Fees
  22. ^ Marion Schmidt: Out of Gröpelingen. zeit.de, October 2, 2014, accessed October 2, 2014.
  23. a b Harvard University: 2006 Factbook (PDF, English; 8.5 MB)
  24. Harvard Rated Asian-American Applicants Lower on Personality Traits, Suit Says . June 15, 2018 ( nytimes.com [accessed July 17, 2018]).
  25. Harvard's Ongoing Anti-Asian-American Micro-Aggression | National Review . In: National Review . June 19, 2018 ( nationalreview.com [accessed July 17, 2018]).
  26. A lawsuit reveals how peculiar Harvard's definition of merit is . In: The Economist . June 23, 2018 ( economist.com [accessed July 17, 2018]).
  27. ^ Students for Fair Admissions. Retrieved July 17, 2018 .
  29. Arnd Krüger : U23, in: Leistungssport 44 (2014) 1, pp. 34–36.
  30. ^ Department of Higher Education signs agreement with Harvard , Cuba today , December 18, 2017.

Coordinates: 42 ° 22 ′ 34 ″  N , 71 ° 6 ′ 59 ″  W.